Until the lion tells his side of the story the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. – African proverb
This is a brilliant saying. Our history has been written by white men, they are the ones who have been telling the story and deciding who to write about and who to ignore. I love how the word “history” breaks down to “his story”, it’s time to hear everyone’s story.
Women, people of color, and immigrants were historically considered lesser people, so the men writing history rarely gave credit to them. But it’s past time for “the lion to tell his side of the story”, for all Americans to have their stories told.
This proverb can also be applied to the controversy over teaching race history in schools. There’s a huge ordeal being made about it as if teaching facts will cause our poor children to hate our country or themselves. Nonsense, remember,
“Those who don’t know history, are doomed to repeat it.” – Edmund Burke
Ignorance is never a good solution, we the people, need to know all the history of our country. Knowing what white men did is important but it does not tell the whole story. We need to know everyone’s stories to fully understand how our country came to be what it is today.
Here are just a few of the unsung heroes who have contributed significantly to advancing our society with their courage, knowledge, and talent.
1. Sybil Ludington: The Female Paul Revere
On the night of April 26, 1777, 16-year-old Sybil Ludington rode nearly 40 miles to warn some 400 militiamen that the British troops were coming. Much like the ride of Paul Revere, Ludington’s message helped Patriot leaders prepare for battle. But Ludington was less than half Revere’s age and rode more than twice as far to carry her warning.
The daughter of militia leader Colonel Henry Ludington, Sybil leaped into action on that fateful day in 1777 when a rider came to the Ludington house in Dutchess County, New York to warn them about a British attack on nearby Danbury, Connecticut. With Col. Ludington’s men on leave and the messenger too tired to continue, it was Sybil who rode through the night gathering almost the whole regiment by daybreak. (From History.com)
2. Claudette Colvin: Teenaged Civil Rights Activist
Too tired to give up her seat on the bus home from high school, on March 2, 1955, Claudette Colvin refused to move for a white passenger—nine months before Rosa Parks would do the same. Later she said that she felt inspired by the memories of earlier pioneers to stand—or sit—her ground.
The 15-year-old Colvin was arrested for violating Montgomery, Alabama’s segregation laws, and her family feared for their safety as news of the incident spread. Colvin pled not guilty and was given probation. While Colvin wasn’t selected by the NAACP to challenge segregation laws in the south due to her youth, she later became one of the four plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, which ruled that the Montgomery segregated bus system was unconstitutional. (From History.com)
3. Hedy Lamarr: Invented Tech Behind Wi-Fi
Often called “The Most Beautiful Woman in Film,” Hedy Lamarr was more than what met the eye. While Lamarr’s screen presence made her one of the most popular actresses of her day, she was also an inventor with a sharp mind. Along with avant-garde composer George Antheil, Lamarr developed a new method of “frequency hopping,” a technique for disguising radio transmissions by making the signal jump between different channels in a prearranged pattern.
Their “Secret Communication System” was created to combat Nazis during World War II but the U.S. Navy ignored their findings. It wasn’t until years later that other inventors realized how groundbreaking the work was. If you use a smartphone today, you can thank Lamarr—her communication system was a precursor to wireless technologies including Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. (From History.com)
4. Dolores Huerta: Founded National Farmworkers Assoc.
A living legend, Dolores Huerta has organized for labor rights, especially in Latino communities, since the 1950s, and is famous for coining the phrase, “Si, se puede!” (“Yes, we can!”) Her labor activism began with farmworkers in Stockton, California, where she led the Agricultural Workers Association before co-founding the National Farmworkers Association, which was renamed United Farm Workers in 1966.
In her years as an activist, Huerta has fought for voting rights, higher wages, and better working conditions for low-income workers. Even in her old age, she’s become a powerful voice for the voiceless as an activist, speaker, and icon. (From Global Citizen)
5. Margaret Heafield: Director Of Software Engineering For Nasa’s Apollo Space Program
She wrote out by hand the mathematical sequence that enabled the Apollo mission to be successful. (That’s what she’s standing beside) . They said that she was so accurate they used to get her to double-check the math once computers started doing it for the other scientists. (From Bored Panda)
6. Susan La Flesche Picotte: First Native American Doctor
From the Omaha tribe, Susan La Flesche Picotte was the first Native American woman doctor. She lived during the mid-1800s and decided to become a doctor when she was just 8 years old. Reportedly, she waited with a sick elderly Native woman who had been told over and over that the local white doctor would come. When he didn’t arrive and the woman died, Picotte became aware that Native lives were less valued. She earned her MD and eventually opened a hospital on a reservation, the first of its kind, where she served patients of every ethnicity. (From Readers Digest)
7. CHARLES EASTMAN: Activist and Co-Founder of Boy Scouts of America
Charles Eastman was of Santee Dakota, English, and French ancestry. After working as a physician on reservations in South Dakota, he became increasingly active in politics and issues involving Native American rights. Working to improve the lives of youths, he founded 32 Native American chapters of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and also helped found the Boy Scouts of America. (From Legacy) Photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons
8. Dr. Charles Hamilton Houston: Worked to Dismantle Jim Crow Laws
Dr. Charles Hamilton Houston went to Amherst and taught English at Howard University before attending Harvard Law School, where he would make history. Houston started law school in the fall of 1919 and in 1922 he became the first Black editor of the Harvard Law Review.
As a lawyer, he went on to play a role in a majority of the civil rights cases before the Supreme Court between 1930 and the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954. In fact, his work working to dismantling the Jim Crow laws earned him the name “The Man Who Killed Jim Crow.” (From NBC News)
9. Ralph Bunche: First African American to Win Nobel Peace Prize
Bunche was valedictorian of his class in both high school and college and went on to earn a doctorate in political science at Harvard University. He was a key participant in drafting and adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights alongside Eleanor Roosevelt. In 1947, his work with the United Nations-led him to the daunting role of working on a team tasked with alleviating the Arab-Israeli conflict in Palestine. It was for this work he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950. Later in life, he worked to promote Civil Rights in the United States, participating in historic events like the March on Washington and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. (From Readers Digest) Photo Courtesy Bettmann/Getty Images
10. George Carruthers: Scientist and Inventor
George CarruthersWhen people think of NASA, they usually think of what it’s like to be an astronaut or spend a day inside the International Space Station but many of the heroes of NASA never leave the ground. One such person is physicist, George Carruthers (b. 1939). Carruthers built his own telescope when he was 10 years old and started working at U.S. Naval Research Library as a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow after he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. In 1969, he was awarded a patent for an ultraviolet camera; it was used in 1972 during the first moonwalk of Apollo 16 allowing scientists to analyze the atmosphere in more detail than ever before. In later years he continued to develop inventions for the NASA program and paid it forward by developing an apprenticeship program that gave high school students the chance to work in the U.S. Naval Laboratory. In 2003, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. (From Readers Digest)
11. Mark Dean: Trailblazer in the Field of Computing
If you’re reading this on a personal computing device, you’ve got Mark Dean (b. 1957) to thank. The scientist and inventor was a trailblazer in the field of computing. Dean discovered he had a knack for working with his hands from a young age, once helping his father assemble a tractor from scratch. He studied engineering in college and started working with I.B.M. soon after earning his degree. At I.B.M., Dean quickly moved up the ranks and developed three of the company’s nine original patents. Among his projects were the first color computer monitor and the first gigahertz chip, which performs a billion calculations a second. (From Readers Digest)
12. William H. Carney: Medal of Honor Winner
It’s no secret that the contributions of Black soldiers in the Civil War have been shamefully overlooked, which is why it isn’t surprising that many people haven’t heard of William H. Carney (1840-1908), the first black soldier to win the Medal of Honor. Born enslaved, Carney was a fighter from an early age, escaping as a young man and finding his way to freedom through the Underground Railroad. Although he originally felt called to become a minister, when he learned troops comprised of black soldiers were forming to the fight in the Civil War, he felt compelled to join. Carney was promoted to sergeant and awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in the 1863 Battle of Fort Wagner in which he made sure his regiment’s flag never reached the ground despite being shot four times. (From Readers Digest)
When we include everyone’s stories in our history, we’ll no longer need black history month or women’s history month. We’ll have fully integrated their stories into our everyday lessons, so we’ll have a more complete understanding of our country’s history.
Do you know of any unsung heroes? Tell us about them in the comments below.
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